‘A woman must have money and a room of her own.’
This famous Virginia Woolf quote is emblazoned across the front of the brand new womens-only members club, the AllBright, in Bloomsbury, which I felt privileged to visit a couple of weeks ago. I strongly advise visiting (or even applying for membership – click here for more info) if at all possible: not only are the rooms beautifully designed by No.12 Studio, but there’s a magical scent of female empowerment in the air.
The first – and last – time I had a room of my own (that wasn’t a bedroom) I was 21 and in my final year at Cambridge University where I was studying English Literature, including Woolf’s own works. As a third year, I was finally able to get my hands on a much-prized ‘set’ of rooms, which comprised a bedroom, living room/study, and tiny kitchen the size of a broom cupboard (not a problem as I was too busy studying* to actually cook).
My set was one of Trinity College's Grade 1 listed buildings, dating back to 1670. It may have been compact, and filled with heavy dark furniture (and my suspiciously stained futon), but it was all mine and I loved it passionately. My favourite thing about my room was the entrance doorway. This was no more than 5’ 8” high, which made rather an impact on the heads of the various unsuitable men who darkened my door. Truly, mine was a feminist room. Woolf would have heartily approved.
Despite its dodgy décor, I didn’t think I could love a room more than I adored that ancient college set. But then last summer we bought this Edwardian house in South East London, which came complete with a little room at the back, overlooking the garden and private woodland beyond. To my delight, the Pink House Husband agreed I could claim it for my own (although I think that had more to do with the fact that I promised I’d use the space to store all extraneous cushions and scented candles than any altruistic motive).
* by ‘studying’ I of course mean drinking, snogging, dancing and, er, riding old BMX bikes into the river Cam
My room design
(all 'after' photos by Susie Lowe)
With free rein to decorate my study as I chose, you won’t be surprised to hear that my starting point was pink. But while I could have painted the four walls a full-on fuchsia, I decided to be a little subtler, and use pink with care and consideration, the better to show it off. I’d used Farrow & Ball’s deep grey Downpipe for the cupboards in my Edinburgh bathroom that broke Pinterest, and had been impressed by its depth and richness. I’d also admired the shade on the walls of Mad About The House’s super-stylish Kate Watson-Smyth’s sitting room (though she has now painted them Fallen Plum by Cassandra Ellis Studio, which is equally stunning).
And so I decided to take the plunge, and paint my study’s walls and shelves (which I designed and had made bespoke from MDF by the excellent Lee from Freeborn Carpentry) in deliciously dark Downpipe, to create a warm, cocooning, calming effect.
Aside from Downpipe, a blush pink Wedgwood rug was my first décor decision. I wanted to reflect the pink of the rug in the ceiling, which I painted in F&B’s soft, dreamy Middleton Pink. The final colour I chose was Wimborne White, one of Farrow & Ball’s brightest whites, which I used to highlight the cornicing and ceiling rose (newly installed by Cornice London), as well as the window with its leafy view, and – most excitingly – the original Edwardian metal mantelpiece.
One of my favourite things in the room is the roman blind, which was made bespoke for my study by the super-skilful Mary and Laragh from The London Curtain Girls, out of Emma J Shipley Animalia Audubon fabric in pink (obvs). Mary and Laragh also made the pink velvet curtains for my sitting room, which I’m genuinely obsessed by, so I knew they’d do an excellent job. Mary took things next level when she turned up at my house with the perfect pink pom-pom trim…
And the final big pink decision was the tiles for the hearth. The fact that I have my own room is exciting enough – the fact that this room contains a pretty little original fireplace is the stuff of dreams, and I was determined to show it off. I knew the perfect tile: the pink Pradena by Bert & May, which look even better than I’d imagined now they’re in situ. Heaven in a hearth.
Rest of the room’s credits:
Dexter Sputnik ceiling light, Marks & Spencer | White Alex storage drawers, Ikea | Desk, Patrizia from Made.com | Pink Humanscale task lamp, Amara | Bird cage lamp, Graham & Green | Bespoke 'Emily' door handle, Kohr by Arsalan | P and E alphabet brush pots, Pentreath & Hall | Art and je t'aime Jane candles, Bella Freud
NB: I will publish a separate post on the stationery in this room, much of which is from Paperchase, on Monday 12 March…